Theresa May is facing further rebellion from her own party over slashing disability benefits for 160,000 people. And with even Conservative MPs telling her she’s gone too far, the smug look she adopted after winning in Copeland might be wiped from her face.
As previously reported at The Canary, the government announced emergency legislation to deny 160,000 people access to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) on Friday 24 February.
Two tribunal judgements found that the current criteria for claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) were insufficient. But the government doesn’t want to pay the extra cost. And so, in an attempt to save £3.7bn, it introduced emergency legislation to overrule the tribunal decision.
Then, to add insult to injury, Conservative MP George Freeman branded the tribunal decision “bizarre”. And he further stated that the tribunal decisions:
now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety. We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it.
Freeman subsequently apologised for his comments.
Both the emergency legislation and Freeman’s comments caused outrage across parties. 28 MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron, have signed a motion to stop the changes.
But it is the rebellion brewing on her own back benches that must be worrying May. Conservative backbencher Heidi Allen MP spoke out about the plans:
In my view, the courts are there for a reason.
If they have come up with this ruling, which says that the criteria should be expanded, then I believe we have a duty to honour that. That is their role.
And others are also threatening to rebel. Writing in The Telegraph, MP Andrew Murrison called the decision “curious”. Murrison, a former NHS consultant, further stated:
Mental illness and covert physical disorders require a profundity of understanding and subtlety of approach that easily evades policy makers.
Murrison suggested that there had been progress in the past on recognising “disability that lacked obvious physicality”. But speaking about the emergency legislation, he said:
Last week ministers appeared to be inching backwards in a move that seems contrary to the notion of parity of esteem between mental and physical health to which the Prime Minister so rightly aspires.
Lack of consultation
Theresa May was also forced to admit that the changes were pushed through without consulting the Social Security Advisory Committee. The committee was only told about the changes “on the day they were being introduced”.
The committee will discuss the changes next week. And any criticisms it makes are likely to impact the vote on the issue.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn asked whether the legislation and Freeman’s comments were:
proof the nasty party is still around?
But however worried May is about a potential backbench rebellion, it is nothing compared to the angst thousands of people are facing over whether they will receive essential benefits. And it’s nothing compared to the number of people stigmatised and offended by Freeman’s comments.
The “nasty party” is alive and kicking. It never went away. Let’s just hope enough MPs are willing to kick back to defeat this disgusting piece of legislation.
– Support Disabled People Against the Cuts.
– Support the march to save the NHS.
Featured image via Wikimedia